🎓 📝 LAB REPORT-365 📝 🎓  – #51 THE TRIGGER

Performance Based Goals to Help Reduce the Risk of Unsafe Habits and Support Mental Health in Females

To start I’d like to mention that this definitely applies to men as well. I’m writing specifically directed to women only because I can confirm a lot of this information myself based on my personal and professional experiences with clients/friends/family. Another point I’d like to clear up is my use of the word “athletes” in this article. I refer to all of my clients as athletes. Anyone with a performance goal is in “training” and is an “athlete”. So many people don’t see themselves as athletic or aren’t comfortable in referring to themselves as an athlete, especially in the early day of their fitness journey, but YOU are an athlete. You bust your ass to achieve your goals. End of story. I’ll go into how changing your perception of yourself can help you achieve your goals in greater detail another day.

Let’s start with some facts. Energy balance is the key goal for performance based athletes. If your balance is off it will eventually adversely affect your performance by either not having the energy reserves to keep you fuelled for the day or, on the flip side, could weigh you/slow you down. I can tell you I have experienced both sides of this spectrum and neither is very fun when you are working towards a clear set goal. When I say energy balance I am referring to protein, fat, and carbohydrate intake. Our primary source of energy as humans is glycogen (carbs) so getting you carb intake on point will have a massive effect on your performance.

There will come a time in most athletes’ lives that they’ll either want to reduce fat or gain muscle. This is achieved by intentionally offsetting the energy balance by either reducing or increasing macro intake. A safe fat loss goal is around 0.5kg per week which would require approximately a 500 calorie deficit. To add mass at a similar rate you’d need to be eating a 500+ calorie per week surplus.

When a client comes to me with either one of these goals, and something I’ve learned to implement in my own life, I acknowledge what they are saying before shifting the focus to performance first. Why I do this is I want it really imbedded in their minds that this is the number 1 goal before body composition. This is creating a trigger. An off switch, alarm bells, a warning sign that will subconsciously switch if bad habits start to appear such as disordered eating, depression, lack of confidence or drive, all things that can happen to women that are changing their routine and habits. In saying this, some women have great self-control, are super confident and experienced and in that case perhaps this approach isn’t always necessary but that would be up to your discretion to decide if this client, friend, family member, or yourself fits into that category before moving forward. There’s definitely no harm done in creating a trigger just in case.

What will happen is if, in the example of fat loss, the calorie deficit is too great for some reason whether it be skipping meals and intentionally trying to shed at a faster rate, or poor guidance by a dietician or nutritionist, the athletes performance will suffer, they will become tried, lose strength, be unable to perform adequately in training and day to day life. Tigger flips. “ My number 1 goal is to squat 120kgs and I’m drained half way through my warm up reps”. This will be a BIG red flag for someone with clear set performance goals. Someone without a performance goal will notice these changes too but their primary concern will be how much flatter their tummy looks. They are far more likely to go longer and create more damage such as reductions in metabolic rate, disturbed menstrual cycle and decreased testosterone levels. This leads to decreased strength/power output and impaired bone density.

A female looking to put on mass will be less likely to see their performance suffer. In fact they’re probably going to see strength/ power gains and be hitting PRs like crazy at first. Then the weight gain starts. Some women will embrace this, loving their new found curves, which is great, while others will really struggle watching the scale go up and feeling their cloths get tighter. This is where you’re more likely to see a shift in mental health in the way of lack of confidence, anxiety, and even full on depression. This is where a good solid support system in place is vital to success, people that are there to use the trigger for you if you’re struggling to flip it yourself. “Remember, larger muscles= greater potential for strength and a double body weight deadlift is your NUMBER 1 GOAL. The rest will come after. This is a process.”

Life is hard. Living up to what society thinks we should be like/look like/ act like is not only hard but its bullshit. Falling into the flames that are fuel by junk reality TV, social media, mainstream advertising (just to name a few) is also hard. We have so much access to viewing genetic freaks of nature or people with enough money to make it look like that they are genetic freaks of nature that our view on reality is easily blurred. To clarify, I am not a fan of the “accept me for me” social movement that some LAZY people abuse to try and force society to accept them. What I do believe in is that women come in all shapes and sizes and they need systems and support set up to help them safely reach their goals.

I’ve talked about science backed facts here followed by a system that has worked for me personally and professionally. I wasn’t a natural born athlete. I haven’t been strongly involved in health and fitness my whole life. I do have had a long history of disordered eating and haven’t always been mentally strong. I am not a genetic freak. I will never be a size 0. I’m 5’3 and 64kgs. I’ve been around 60ishkgs since I was 12 years old. What I am, is trying. Trying to respect my body, improve my health, train like an athlete, eat for performance, sleep for recovery and listen to the safety triggers that I’ve put in place. I have, for the first time in my life, been able to see and acknowledge that I was cutting too fast and immediately start back dieting because of these triggers and because I have GOALS. Big ones actually, and super shredded abs doesn’t even come close to standing on a platform and hitting PRS, all white lights, and having all my lifts well over bodyweight/ double body weight. Those goals kept my head on straight.

Jessica Stojnic
Strength Performance Coach